She makes clothes for her daughter; soft toys, house furnishings and more. Here she discusses the fine juggling act of motherhood and work as well as tiredness and creativity.
Has your creativity level changed since becoming a mother? Is it different rather than less or a matter of learning how to juggle everything?
I don't think I've really changed that much since becoming a parent; however I do make more things for my daughter than for anyone else. Kid’s things are much more exciting to make and I feel happy when making them too. Adults are more tricky to make for because patterns and colours are sort of restricted a bit. I guess I might be making more, since I became pregnant in 2012.
You live on a beautiful nature reserve, is that right? After living in busy old bustling South London, has this changed your work style in any way?
Yes we moved to the Isle of Wight, to a tiny town wedged between the sea, river, estuary, marsh and woodland. It’s a bit like an island within an island in fact. The ferry docks in the harbour so it’s very easy to get to the mainland quickly. I was born and grew up on the Isle of Wight until I was 18 so it’s not such a big change for me. However I did spend about 13 years living in London and it is very different. I love London and always will, but I think I came to the point that I craved the wildness of the countryside rather than the 'man made' nature that you have in London.
Also, of course the house prices are about 2/3rd less than in London!
Work has changed since our move due to the fact that my husband and I take it in turns to go to London twice a month to work at our office/workshop there. We have a full time person working there too, so she has been vital in our decision to move away. The rest of the time we do bits and bobs of work from home as and when we can!
How beneficial have you found nature play for your daughter? Have you noticed a difference in her interactions with other children outside compared to indoor playgroups? I know my little one is so much happier when outside interacting with others where there are no toys to fight over and the fresh air eliminates any sign of “crankiness”.
Our two year old daughter often goes to Wildlife Tots in the woods, a group run by the Wildlife Trust. She will sometimes get cranky, regardless of what she did that day but at least she had some fresh air!
I think all kids love all that revolting stuff like mud and slimy creatures and fungi etc... so it’s great that they can investigate these naturally. I'm not one for asking her to collect bugs or pick things though, I think it’s important that she understands respect for all creatures and observe how they move, what they do and their babies in their natural habitat. It may be a small thing, but the concept is quite a huge one I think. It’s also great for her to be outside and learn things like which berries she can pick and eat, not to touch mushrooms and which plants are stingers and scratchers. If she sees a new thing, she always asks before she touches it, which makes me more relaxed for her to go and explore on her own as she learnt a great point that nature can be dangerous so you have to respect it too.
I like watching animals around us with her, how they react to her and how to approach them carefully and gently. How they are protective of their young just like us and get scared of loud noises just like us. Then hopefully when she’s older, she can make an informed choice of whether she wants to eat animals or not. I’m not against eating meat but it’s something I think all people should consider more deeply.
I think it’s really healthy to be outdoors and pick up all those good germs as well, but if she wasn't in the mood or it’s really windy (she HATES wind!) I wouldn't force he, it should be something she enjoys first and foremost.
I don't think there is anything wrong with being indoors either, or having toys or watching TV. It’s all about common sense and choosing the right ones and how much.
You involve your daughter in many of your creative endeavours, how receptive is she to them? Have you noticed yours and your husband’s creativity rubbing off onto her?
Our daughter is only two so she is in the toddler phase of 'investigating' rather than being artistically creative. Just like adults, children need to experiment with their new tools like paint and crayons first before they will be able to use them with some sort of thought process. It’s important to just let her feel the paint and the noise it makes when she squelches in it her hands, and how the colours always turn brown when she mixes them up! It is a bit messy though.
I'm not too fussed about whether she is creative in an artistic sense or not from living with us. I believe that creativity and imagination is about having ideas beyond restrictions and acting upon them.
In the future she might be a creative mathematician, scientist, nurse, engineer or gardener. Any subject can be creative if you forget about the rules and have new ideas that can make change happen for the better.
The most important thing I feel, is to teach her to be confident in herself and her abilities. I know so many creative talented people who have spent their lives doing a job they did not enjoy because they were not confident in their talents. That’s a terrible waste.
What are the most important qualities you wish to instil in your daughter, I often think about this and always conclude that I wish for her to be a strong woman, to not fall victim to a lot of the pressures put upon young women. A strong sense of self.
I feel very cautious about telling her to be a strong woman because she is, first and foremost a person. I do worry a bit about telling girls to be ‘this way and that way’ because as far as she is aware, boys and girls are pretty much the same. If I say that she is just as equal as men, she might think 'what do you mean? Of course I am!'
I don't particularly like the term Feminist, I prefer Equality, regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, ability, hair colour or height! A person is a person, there is no hierarchy and anyone who acts or behaves like that, is just plain daft!
I love the quote by Ghandi, something about; if you want change to happen in the world then you have to be it yourself. Just talking about it won't really change anything.
My husband and I hopefully show our daughter this in the way we live...she has both our surnames, we share the childcare equally, we work for our business equally. As far as she knows, that’s just normal, and that is how the world should be in my opinion.
Body image in the media is a big problem for children and adults alike, as we all strive to be more visually appealing. For girls perhaps more so. I went through this phase when I was younger and now I just laugh at what I thought about myself. As long as I am healthy-ish then I am satisfied ; ) All I can do for my daughter is to not let her hear or see me being negative about my own body or appearance. I have a feeling that, that kind of negativity quite often starts with the mum's opinion of herself...sadly.
Do you find your work shed to be the perfect escape? It reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge, I’ve often dreamt of writing in one myself as long as there weren’t too many spiders!
I've had a tiny shed in the garden for the last five years and it has made such a difference to me. I love making things so much, sewing, weaving, knitting and designing. It’s perfect to have a small place that you can shut the door and not be distracted. It’s a bit like a kind of therapy!
Now my husband has one too, and I think he feels the same way.
As your daughter gets older, do you find more time for your work?
Now that our daughter is a toddler, I have less and less time for my own projects because she constantly wants us to play with her or do acrobatics on the sofa, or chase her around the house, it’s so tiring!
Because we alternate the child care each day, we get a chance to recharge ourselves, get work and housework done or do our own projects. Oh, those days when she just used to roll around on a blanket and have three naps a day, I can't believe how I thought babies were hard work.
What does a typical day with your daughter look like?
We don't have any typical days in our house! It would be easier to describe a typical month...
I go to London usually twice a month for a day or two each time to get work done. About four to six days per month I work on dispatching our jewellery orders from home. Made to order rings are organised during my time in London.
We spend a lot of time watching the sea (in the winter) or going in it in the summer, walking down to feed the ducks and jumping in puddles. Visiting the nearby woods. Throwing stones into the mill pond. Going to the local swimming pool. That kind of thing.
We usually all wake up at the same time, around 7.30 am and have breakfast around 8am (she goes to bed at about 7.30-8pm and sleeps really well usually). I'm not a morning person so we just take it easy and are not usually all washed, dressed and fed until 11am!
I have to answer a lots of customer enquiry emails every day, so I squeeze this in whilst she is eating breakfast or having a nap, or I do it in the evening. I usually write my blog after she has gone to bed...maybe once or twice a week, roughly speaking!
We recently found a wonderful childminder who visits our house during the day once a week; she brings a little boy of similar age whom she also looks after. They do painting and playing, and go for walks and come back all muddy! This enables us to have a quiet lunch together which is a real treat!
How do you combat toddler related tiredness? What helps you get through those more challenging days?
After a full day rushing about and dealing with tantrums etc... I usually stay in the same spot after 9pm...the sofa, with a glass of red wine.
Are you a big reader? What was the last book you read?
I am definitely not a big reader! I like books with pictures in them. I don’t read any fiction except for the ones I read with our kiddo. I like factual books that I can learn from, and books about wildlife. I LOVE reading Wikipedia, if ever I'm curious about anything, I go straight there, and then it will lead me onto other subjects and I end up reading it for hours! I like the way it gets to the point quickly and
It’s generally unbiased as far as I have seen. I especially like reading famous peoples biographies on there, they are so inspiring! I wish I'd had Wikipedia when I was doing my A levels!
Interview | Artemis Russell /Motherhood & Creativity